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Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 18 November 2018

Rangana Herath interview: My life juggling jobs as a banker and Test cricketer

Herath, 40, will retire from international at the conclusion of the first Test in Galle. He tells Amith Passela about juggling his day job with a career as Sri Lanka's premier spinner since the retirement of Muralitharan

Sri Lankan cricketer Rangana Herath during a practice session at the Galle International Cricket Stadium. AFP
Sri Lankan cricketer Rangana Herath during a practice session at the Galle International Cricket Stadium. AFP

It might sound unusual for a professional cricketer, particularly in the modern era, to juggle a playing career and a day job.

But that’s what the Sri Lankan spinner Rangana Herath, the most successful left-arm bowler in Tests with 430 wickets, has been doing for more than two decades.

Herath, 40, who retires from international cricket after the first Test against England in Galle, starting on Tuesday, said he will return to his job as banker full time.

However, he has some unfinished business as the main spin attack of the home side at a venue where it all started for him.

Galle holds many good memories for Herath. He made his Test debut at the venue, taking 4-97 in 34.3 overs in the rain-curtailed drawn match against Australia in September 1999.

He revived his career with a match haul of 10 wickets against Pakistan almost a decade later, scored his highest Test score of 80 not out against India in 2010 and grabbed a hat-trick over Australia in 2016.

Herath is now only one shy of joining his more illustrious former teammate Muttiah Muralitharan in the 100-wicket club at the venue. But, Herath says, victory over England rather than personal milestones would be the best way to bring down the curtain on his international career.

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“For the next few days my whole focus will be on the England game and how to win it for my team,” he told The National.

“It’s hard to say how the game will pan out for me and for the team but nothing can be better than a win on my final Test.

“If I achieve the 100-wicket milestone at the venue, it will be good, but I won’t lose sleep over it if I didn’t.

“As I said earlier, a win over England will be the best result for me. I have had some very good moments in Galle, and if I’m lucky, end my international career with another.”

Herath is the 10th most successful bowler of all time in Test cricket and can move up to seventh with five wickets in his last game to go past Richard Hadlee (431), Stuart Broad (433) and Kapil Dev (434).

Following the conclusion of the first Test, Herath will return to his day job at Sampath Bank where he has worked for 18 years.

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“The job provided me with financial stability to play cricket,” he said. “I did two other jobs before joining the bank in the year 2000 and they have supported my cricket all through until now.

“The bank gave me time off to play cricket full time and I always knew I had a job I can always return to, if I wasn’t successful in cricket.

“I will be done with international cricket from next week and return to my day job. That’s what I enjoy after cricket.”

Herath completed the Level 2 coaching conducted by Sri Lanka Cricket last month but said he has no plans to take up coaching anytime soon.

“I did that to have it on my CV, and perhaps, I will consider it at a later time,” he said.

Herath hasn’t played a full Test series since January 2017 because of a niggling knee injury. He said the time was right for him to step down.

“I have enjoyed my time as a cricketer and enjoyed some amazing moments in international cricket, but I can’t go on for ever,” he said.